Francis Steiphenson: The Life and Death of a ‘Russet-Coated’ Officer
Although Major Richard Sharpe is a fictional character, there were working-class officers in the British Army. John Shipp (1784-1834) spent his infancy as an orphan in a poorhouse. At the age of nine, he escaped from a miserable apprenticeship to enlist in the army as a drummer boy. Shipp’s intelligence and courage brought regular promotions, and eventually a lieutenant’s commission. The cost of keeping up with the officer class proved prohibitive, and he was forced to sell his commission and return to the ranks. However, he eventually obtained a second commission. He published an account of his career a few years before his death. As David Appleby reveals in this blog-post, Shipp was by no means the first of the few. Documents in the Staffordshire archives show how 150 years earlier it was possible for a common soldier to become an officer. That said, the case of Francis and Cibbel Steiphenson reveals how such people were still vulnerable to the prejudices of a hierarchical world … One of the many weapons royalists deployed against parliamentarians was snobbery. The term ‘Roundhead’ was itself calculated to invoke images of crop-haired, lice-ridden labourers and apprentices. This disdain intensified following the inception of the New Model Army, fuelled by fears that the increasing radicalisation of the parliamentarian cause would turn society upside down. The fact that many New Model officers came from obscure social backgrounds allowed royalist satirists to heap further derision on their opponents. The anonymous author of A Case for the City-Spectacles (1647), for example, described Thomas Pride as ‘a drayman boiled up to be a colonel’. Bruno Ryves argued in Micro-chronicon (1647) that there was little point in reporting the deaths of parliamentarian officers because most of them were of ‘small quality, and less fortunes’. Royalists did not have a monopoly on snootiness. Denzil Holles, a leading opponent of Charles I, eventually became more preoccupied with opposing the rise of plebeian radicalism. A Presbyterian gentleman, he later asserted that most of the New Model’s officers were ‘mean tradesmen, brewers, tailors, goldsmiths, shoemakers and the like; a notable dunghill’. This attitude was clearly shared by the established county gentry who ran the Suffolk county committee in 1643. These well-heeled committeemen were fond of their protégé Captain Johnson, but deprecated the low-born Captain Ralph Margery. Their carping exasperated Oliver Cromwell, who gave the committee a curt assessment of Johnson’s incompetence, and praised Margery. He summed up the contrast between the two men with a sentence which would become famous: ‘I had rather have a plain, russet-coated captain, that knows what he fights for, and loves what he knows, than that you call a gentleman and is nothing else.’ Although the New Model saw its share of nepotism, advancement was largely based on merit and competence. Ian Gentles has found that nearly sixteen per cent of its officers were promoted from the ranks. John Cruso had already declared in Militarie Instructions for the Cavall’rie (1632) that ‘they are not a little mistaken, which think their birth a sufficient pretence to places of honour, without any qualification or merit, there being other things more real and essential required in an officer, namely, knowledge, experience valour, dexterity etc.’ Cruso had Dutch ancestry and thousands of Englishmen had served in the Dutch army, where it was perfectly normal for a corporal to end up as a captain. There was no compelling need for Charles I to commission plebeians, for much as he was perennially short of infantry, he was never short of officers. For parliamentarians it was the other way around: the factional infighting within Parliament’s rainbow alliance gradually reduced the number of gentlemen willing to serve as officers. This, together with the need to find replacements for those lost on campaign, compelled Parliament to cast the net more widely than their opponents. Civilians from non-gentry backgrounds such as Ralph Margery in Suffolk, Adam Eyre in Yorkshire, and Thomas Hobson, Goodhere Hunt and Colonel John Fox in Warwickshire received commissions. Lieutenant Goodhere Hunt was illiterate, as was Lieutenant William Spry of Nottinghamshire. As Andrew Hopper has observed, such men were at the margins of polite society. Nevertheless, Captain Margery was at least a minor landholder, unlike Lieutenant Francis Steiphenson of Fradswell, Staffordshire. Steiphenson’s widow, Cibbel first petitioned the Staffordshire Bench in April 1651 [Staffordshire Archives and Heritage, Q/SR/272, fol. 13]. This petition and two later ones – the last submitted in October 1657 [SAH Q/SR/300, fols. 13, 14] – provide details of her husband’s life. Francis Steiphenson began his military career as a common soldier sometime around 1620, serving in Sir Horace Vere’s English brigade, in the regiment commanded by Robert Devereux, 3rd Earl of Essex. In 1620 the brigade took its place alongside other Protestant contingents in the Rhineland. Once the campaigning season had ended Lord Essex returned to England to recruit more men. He repeated the exercise every winter from 1621 to 1624. The Devereux family had property in Staffordshire, and had long enjoyed close friendships with several leading families in the region, not least that of Thomas, Lord Cromwell (a distant cousin of the then obscure Oliver Cromwell). Staffordshire was therefore an obvious place for the Earl of Essex’s recruitment drives. Cibbel Steiphenson declared in her 1651 petition that her husband had served for about thirty years, which suggests that he was one of Lord Essex’s earliest recruits. Francis took part in several campaigns in Germany and the Low Countries. In 1657 Cibbel added to her testimony in declaring that her husband had also served in the Palatinate. This would fit with Vere’s presence there from 1621 to 1623, in support of Frederick, the Prince-Elector Palatine, James I’s son-in-law. Francis Steiphenson may therefore have served in one of Vere’s garrisons in Mannheim, Heidelberg or Frankenthal. These towns were gradually reduced by Catholic Imperial forces, with Frankenthal the last to surrender in 1623. Cibbel Steiphenson’s testimony indicates that Francis had returned to England by 1624. In that year King James commissioned a mercenary, Count Ernst von Mansfeld, to mount an expedition to recover the Palatinate. Thomas, Lord Cromwell was engaged to raise a regiment for Mansfeld’s expeditionary force. Cromwell, who had been created Viscount Lecale by James I, was by now experienced in warfare, having served in Ireland and at sea. The regiment had been intended for the Earl of Essex, and, like Essex before him, Lecale recruited in Staffordshire. The bulk of Mansfeld’s infantry were levies: the Privy Council had instructed provincial magistrates to disburden their counties of ‘unnecessary persons’ by conscripting unemployed males, vagrants and those living ‘lewdly and unprofitably’ [Bodleian MS Firth c. 4, fol. 107]. Turning such men into an efficient fighting force was a job for experienced officers and tough NCOs. Francis Steiphenson was a perfect choice for a sergeant: he was a seasoned soldier, and familiar with the Palatinate. Moreover, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that recruits tended to accept discipline more readily from officers and NCOs from their own locality. Mansfeld’s expedition was a disaster. His regiments arrived on the Continent in January 1625, but most of the men died of disease, exposure and starvation without ever seeing combat. As a veteran, Francis Steiphenson was more inured to hardship and contagion than the raw recruits. Having survived once again he found employment back in England, as a sergeant in the Staffordshire Trained Bands. His role was probably to instruct the part-time county militia in weapons drill. Cibbel Steiphenson’s declaration that he served under the Earl of Essex for a second time ‘in the north of this kingdom’ is a clear reference to the First Bishops’ War of 1639. Soon after Essex was made Lieutenant-General of Charles I’s infantry, several counties were instructed to lend him companies from their trained bands. Staffordshire sent a contingent, and it seems evident that Sergeant Steiphenson marched north with it. The outbreak of civil war in England in 1642 saw the Earl of Essex appointed Captain-General of Parliament’s forces. Viscount Lecale’s Irish estates had been lost early in the 1641 Rising, but he returned to Ireland to command a regiment of horse for the King. His services there prompted Charles I to elevate him to the earldom of Ardglass in April 1645. Which man did Francis Steiphenson follow? The answer appears to be neither. Cibbel stated in her 1651 petition that her husband had served in Ireland ‘since the beginning of these late and still continuing distractions there’. Assuming that her reference to service ‘in the north of this kingdom’ and a later reference to service in England both refer to the Bishops’ Wars (the Second Bishops’ War being fought mainly in northern England), this would imply that Francis was shipped out in December 1641 with one of the regiments sent to the Earl of Ormond in the Pale of Dublin. He was therefore not technically a parliamentarian until June 1647, when Ormond – worried that he had insufficient forces to protect the Pale from the Catholic Confederacy – handed his troops over to Parliament. Soon after this, Steiphenson was promoted to the rank of lieutenant. The attritional nature of Irish warfare had compounded the officer shortage, and able NCOs were obvious promotion candidates. Lieutenant Steiphenson’s luck ran out at some point around 1650. He was badly wounded, and invalided back to England, arriving in Staffordshire ‘in a languishing condition’. He was awarded an annual pension of 40 shillings per annum by the Staffordshire authorities. This was a common soldier’s pension rather than one befitting an officer, but it must be remembered that Staffordshire’s economy had been crippled by the wars. That said, a year earlier, when Lieutenant William Baggeley of Eccleshall had objected to being awarded a similar pension the county Justices had promptly raised his allowance to £10 per annum [SAH Q/SR/265, fol. 4]. Francis Steiphenson died in the winter of 1650-51. Soon afterwards, his widow heard that their son Edward had been killed in Scotland whilst serving with the New Model. Cibbel promptly petitioned the Staffordshire Bench, to request that the Justices convert her late husband’s meagre allowance into a widow’s pension. She was now old, she said, and having been ‘deprived of the comfort and help both of a husband and son’, she was ‘destitute of subsistence or livelihood’. On the face of things, Cibbel had a strong case: in addition to her husband’s long service, Edward had been steadfastly loyal to Parliament, taking part in the sieges of Chester and Lichfield, as well as other actions. The endorsements on her 1651 petition reveal that was supported by leading inhabitants in the parish of Fradswell. The fact that Wingfield Cromwell had added his signature was perhaps a mixed blessing, for the Commonwealth state considered his father, the Earl of Ardglass, a delinquent, and had fined him for his royalism. For their part, Staffordshire’s Justices had a long list of needy veterans awaiting the next pensioner’s place to fall vacant. Cibbel Steiphenson’s request was refused. Widows often sold their clothes and household goods to survive, or relied on charity from neighbours, relations or parish officials. In extremity some were forced to beg. Cibbel had one last card to play, as she was aware that her late husband was still owed £10 by the State for arrears of pay. She pursued the matter with the Staffordshire Bench, and in October 1652 the Justices agreed to pay Francis’ arrears, in instalments of 10s a quarter. On the face of things, this should have provided Cibbel with a regular income commensurate with the discontinued pension; however, the instalments were not always paid. It was common for the Treasurers for Maimed Soldiers to prioritise the pensions of veterans, and only pay widows if any money was left. One of Cibbel’s petitions preserved in the Quarter Sessions rolls for Michaelmas 1657 [SAH Q/SR/300, fol. 13] had almost certainly been submitted to an earlier sessions. Cibbel complained in this petition that she had received no money for three quarters in a row, and now had nothing to subsist on. The Justices ordered the Treasurer to pay her 30s, and to see that future instalments were paid. However, Cibbel was forced to petition in October 1657, as the payments had lapsed once again. She reminded the Justices that they had agreed to pay her 10s a quarter until the £10 arrears had been settled in full. She had been paid for three quarters, but ‘calling for the last quarter’s payment she was (upon what pretence she knows not) denied it.’ [SAH Q/SR/300, fol. 14] Cibbel pointed out that she had not only lost her husband, but also the son who would have supported her in her old age. The Justices again admitted the default, and endorsed her petition with the order that it should be paid, and she was henceforth to receive 10 shillings every quarter until the arrears had been paid in full. One entry in the Quarter Sessions order book confirms this decision [SAH Q/SO/6, fol. 88r]. Ominously, however, another entry just two pages later states that ‘Sibill Steevenson’ should be given the disputed 30s, ‘but she is to expect no further allowance’ [SAH Q/SO/6, fol. 89v]. ‘Francis Steevenson’ was recorded merely as ‘a soldier in the Parliament’s service, deceased.’ The Justices’ repeated backsliding was in marked contrast to their sympathetic treatment of Lieutenant Baggeley. Despite having secured a pension of £10 per annum Baggeley had lived beyond his means. By January 1657, having become involved in a dubious money-making scheme, he was imprisoned for debt. He wrote from gaol to request that the Staffordshire Justices give him an advance on his usual quarterly payment [SAH Q/SR/297, fol. 12]. This initial appeal fell on deaf ears, but his wife Ann continued to collect his pension. In July 1658 the Bench relented, and authorised an advance payment [SAH Q/SO/6, fols. 67v, 81v, 103v, 104v-105r]. When Baggeley petitioned in October for a further advance, this was also granted [SAH Q/SR 304, fol. 24; Q/SO/6, fol. 109r]. It is difficult to escape the conclusion that the Baggeleys received preferential treatment because Francis Steiphenson was a ‘russet-coated’ officer rather than a gentleman. Did it ever occur to Cibbel Steiphenson to petition the Lord Protector directly? Oliver Cromwell is known to have intervened personally in a number of cases, and his fondness for ‘russet-coated’ officers suggests that he would have given her a sympathetic hearing. Further Reading Ian Gentles, ‘The New Model officer corps in 1647: a collective portrait’, Social History, vol. 22, no. 2 (May 1997), pp. 127-144. Andrew Hopper, ‘“Tinker” Fox and the politics of garrison warfare in the West Midlands’, Midland History, vol. 24, no. 1 (1999), pp. 98-113. Andrew Hopper, ‘Social mobility during the English Revolution: the case of Adam Eyre’, Social History, vol. 38, no. 1 (2013), pp. 26-45. D. W. King, ‘Ralph Margery: Cromwell’s russet-coated captain’, Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, vol. 58, no. 233 (Spring 1980), pp. 48-54.
‘He valiantly spent his life in the opposition of that grand rebellion’: the war widows of combatants in Ireland
In 1653 Elizabeth Fowler of Halstead, Essex, petitioned the court of quarter sessions at Chelmsford for relief and received a £3 gratuity on account of the death of her husband. John Fowler had fought for Parliament at the battle of Edgehill (October 1642) and subsequently went into service in Ireland, under the command of a ‘Captain Chapman in Major Warner’s regiment’. According to the testimony of a fellow soldier named Samuel Downes, Fowler lost his life in Ireland ‘by a shot before Lough Gur Castle in the county of Limerick’. Lough Gur Castle or Bourchiers Castle, situated about twenty miles south of the city of Limerick, had been built in the late-sixteenth century by Sir George Bourchier. In March 1642 the castle was taken by a group of Irish Catholic rebels led by William Bourke, Lord Castleconnell. Fowler was no doubt killed during a later attempt to recapture the castle, though it is unclear when this took place. [Trinity College Dublin, MS 829, ff. 258r-259v, Deposition of John Pilkington (14/09/1642)]. Elizabeth Fowler was one of many widows who lost their husbands in Ireland during the British and Irish Civil Wars (1641-1653). For these women, petitions were an important means of survival and as such were tailored for the purpose of acquiring financial and material aid. Recent studies on war widows have highlighted the different strategies used in petitions to assist supplicants in attaining relief, such as expressions of loyalty and the language of poverty and helplessness. Five petitions and fourteen payments relating to women who lost their husbands in Ireland are currently available on the project website. For these women narrative tools were essential for receiving aid, due to the difficulties of acquiring proof of their husbands’ death. In England, widows only needed to obtain a certificate from their husband’s commanding officer, stipulating their husband had died in service, to apply for a pension. According to the Act providing for Maimed Soldiers and Widows of Scotland and Ireland (September 1651), however, widows needed a certificate from the senior commander of the army in which their husband served. This was a much more difficult task as these men were typically not local to the widows and were often still in military service. Of the nineteen payments and petitions only two appear to have provided proof of death. The payment to Christian Lesswell of Coggeshall, Essex, suggests that she had ‘proofe’ of her husband’s service in Ireland, entitling her to a pension of 40s per annum. Jane Plat of Denbighshire had also been able to acquire proof in the form of a certificate, but this was only from her husband’s captain, ‘William Wnlockes’. Nevertheless, she received a pension of £3 per annum. The rest of the women were unable to acquire a certificate and therefore did not meet the necessary criteria for a pension. These widows relied upon the narratives of their petitions to elicit sympathy from justices of the peace, with varying degrees of success. Martha Emming of Coggeshall, Essex, lost her husband at the siege of York in 1644 and a son in Ireland. Martha’s petition (1653) drew upon the language of poverty by describing the distress she was suffering as a result of the loss of her male relatives. She emphasised her inability to work due to her advanced age and was subsequently granted a one-off gratuity of 40 s. Jane Hart of Wellington, Somerset, meanwhile, was denied relief from the justices of the peace in 1653. Jane claimed that her husband had been absent in Ireland for three years leaving her and her poor children ‘destitute of any succour or relief’, but without proof of her husband’s death Jane was only entitled to poor relief under the Elizabethan Poor Law. Consequently, it was ordered that Jane should receive 12 d. per week from the parish. Joane Martin of Winchester, Hampshire, was similarly denied a gratuity or pension due to a lack of proof of death. The justices instead ordered that a place of habitation should be provided for her, another measure outlined in the Poor Law. While most petitioning strategies were common amongst war widows, one strategy for attaining relief was unique to the widows of soldiers in Ireland. On 14 October 1651 Elizabeth Tilston of Wrexham, Denbighshire, petitioned the Chief Justice of Chester, Colonel Humfrey Mackeworth, for relief. Elizabeth had lost her husband Valentine Tilson in Ireland, who had been ‘slain by the Irish [illegible] rebels, leaving your poor petitioner with two small children in great want and misery’. Similarly, Margaret Johnson of Halstead, Essex, petitioned the court of quarter sessions for relief having lost her husband in Ireland, where he ‘valiantly spent his life in the opposition of that grand rebellion, leaving your poor petitioner with two small and sickly children to provide for’. These two women drew upon the memory of the Irish rebellion to improve their chances of acquiring a pension. This was a shrewd approach, side-stepping the difficulties of providing details of a soldier’s military service as proof of loyalty. The scant geographical information offered in the petitions and payments supports the idea that many women were uninformed of their husband’s activities overseas. Of the five petitions available, only Elizabeth Fowler mentions an Irish place name, Lough Gur Castle, likely because she was informed of her husband’s death by a fellow soldier. Amongst the payments only two additional place names are mentioned. Ann Owen of Denbighshire claimed her husband died at Galway, while Elizabeth Bridge of Bocking, Essex, claimed her husband died at ‘Cleningo’. By utilising the Irish rebellion, service in Ireland was framed as part of the universal Protestant cause to defeat the forces of the antichrist, a cause which many Parliamentarians identified with strongly. Royalism was regarded by many as having strong links to the Irish rebels. Since the outbreak of the rebellion on the evening of 22 October 1641, suspicions had grown over the King’s involvement in a popish plot to destroy Protestantism. These suspicions were exacerbated on 4 November 1641 with the publication of a false royal commission, which ordered the rebels to reclaim Ireland for the King. Sir Phelim O’Neill, a notable rebel leader, had issued the forgery hoping that the pretence of royal assent would increase support for the rebel cause in Ireland. While members of Parliament and the political elite were likely aware that the document was fake, the association between Charles I, a universal Catholic conspiracy and the Irish rebels was politically advantageous. Consequently, parliamentarians emphasised these links throughout the 1640s, calling upon the memory of the rebellion to show that the royalists had chosen the wrong side. By claiming their husbands had died at the hands of the Irish rebels, war widows were thus able to justify their right to relief by highlighting the loyalty of their husbands to Parliament and the Protestant cause. The evidence so far suggests that utilising the memory of the rebellion was a lucrative strategy for attaining relief. Elizabeth Tilston was given 50s annually out of the county’s collections for maimed soldiers and war widows, an amount which increased to 60s in 1657, while Margret Johnson received a £3 gratuity. As more petitions are added to the site no doubt the extent to which the memory of the Irish rebellion was used as a petitioning strategy and what effect this had on relief will become even more clear, offering a new Irish dimension to the study of war widow petitions. Further reading Imogen Peck, ‘The great unknown: the negotiation and narration of death by English war widows, 1647-60’, Northern History, 53/2 (2016), pp. 220-235. Hannah Worthen, ‘Supplicants and guardians: the petitions of Royalist widows during the Civil Wars and Interregnum, 1642-1660’, Women’s History Review, 26/4 (2017), pp. 528-540. Dr Bethany Marsh is currently the Irish Government Senior Scholar at Hertford College, University of Oxford. Her research explores the lives and experiences of refugees from Ireland in the 1640s and 1650s, with a particular focus on the organisation and dispensation of parish relief in England.
‘This horrid kinde of cruelty’: narratives from the Irish theatre of the Wars
‘The English Civil Wars’, ‘the Great Rebellion’, ‘the English Revolution’, ‘the British Civil Wars’, ‘the Wars of the Three Kingdoms’. These are all names that have been used to refer to the various conflicts in what we now know as Great Britain and Ireland which occurred in the mid-seventeenth century. The last two terms were created to underline the key role that Ireland and Scotland played in these conflicts. But even the new terms remain contested – ‘British Civil Wars’, for example, creates a similar dispute to that of ‘British Isles’ being used as a shorthand for Great Britain and Ireland. Fortunately, however, the role of Ireland is nowadays rarely forgotten by the scholars of the Wars, even if historiographical debates continue. In this blog, Oresta Mukute, examines how narratives of loss from the Irish theatre of the Wars may be compared with those on Civil War Petitions... It is difficult to see how the Civil Wars in England would have erupted had the Irish Rebellion of 1641 not occurred. Beginning as an attempt at a coup d'état by a few members of Irish Catholic gentry, the Irish Rebellion of 1641 developed into an ethnic conflict between the wider community of Catholic Gaelic Irish and ‘Old English’ on one side, and English, Welsh and Scottish Protestant settlers on the other. The Rebellion immediately precipitated a political crisis in Westminster, as the King and Parliament could not trust each other to control the army which was intended to quell the Irish rebels. It is arguable that had Charles accepted the list of grievances presented to him by Parliament a couple months after the rebellion broke out, the revolt in Ireland may have been settled with relative ease. Instead, however, Charles I mobilised an army of his own, thus officially starting the First Civil War in England. The conflicts of the decade inflicted a huge death-toll on the population of Ireland, with estimates concluding that the loss of life at the time was more significant than that in the Irish Rebellion of 1798, or even the potato famine of the 1840s. In the midst of the tumult, the colonial administration was anxious to provide the Protestant refugees fleeing to Dublin with a framework for compensation and to find a way to acquire intelligence about the insurgents. The surviving collection of the depositions has been digitised and published on the 1641 Depositions website (http://1641.tcd.ie/). Similarly to the Civil Wars Petitions Project, it stores a great deal of very rich information on the events between 1641 and 1653. It contains a digitised collection of about 8,000 statements collected by the Commission for the Despoiled Subject, largely from refugees who fled to Dublin. Unfortunately, no equivalent for losses on the Catholic side exists. As with official documents from all time periods, the form and structure of the depositions were fairly standardised. Typically, after collecting the names, occupations and addresses of the deponents, the commissioners examined what robberies and spoils had been committed, under what circumstances, and to what value; any names of those known to be responsible; any memory of traitorous or disloyal words used by the rebels and any known instances of murder. The factual validity of the depositions has been questioned by historians ever since their collation, due to the 1641 Rebellion swiftly becoming the focus of religious and political propaganda. Nonetheless, these types of documents provide us with rare access to the voices of early modern people, even if these have been mediated by legal processes. They are important personal accounts which have a unique importance because they contain the most detailed information about what happened in Ireland during the decade of conflict. But they also convey the sense of the terror which the violence brought, which we know is also evident in English and Welsh accounts of the Wars. Although women were the smaller group of deponents, Protestant authorities, such as the head of the Commission for the Despoiled Subject, Henry Jones, often chose to include women’s narratives in disproportionate numbers in their descriptions of the events in Ireland. This is likely due to the fact that many female narratives may have been perceived as more emotional and therefore more appropriate for sensationalist reporting. Undeniably, however, the contents of their depositions featured heavily also due to the fact that many of them included descriptions of violence on Protestant women and children. The obligation to protect certain categories of people was understood to be a part of the unwritten laws of nature and Christian morality. In aiming to portray the Catholic Irish rebels as barbarous or otherwise unruly, violence against women, especially the kind that mimics biblical stories, was very useful. ‘This horrid kinde of cruelty’, Sir John Temple wrote in The Irish Rebellion (1646), ‘was principally reserved by these inhumane Monsters for Women, whose sex they neither pitied nor spared’. Although the goal of this post is not to explore violence against women specifically, the special place of women in this conflict is the reason it will compare a female deposition to a similar petition that can be found on the Civil War Petitions website: the deposition of Joane Parker, of County Cavan and the petition of Marie Burton of Stansty, Denbighshire. These documents were chosen for their two key similarities: both narratives were recorded in the late 1640s, and both women were widowed after their husbands died in imprisonment. But there are equally differences to be acknowledged. Firstly, the two documents served different functions. The depositions were originally created in Ireland to record the loss of goods and the activities and alleged crimes of the Irish insurgents. The petitions, meanwhile, were collected when soldiers, widows and orphans wished to claim help from the authorities due to the effects of the Wars on their families. And whereas most Protestant women deposing in Dublin would have witnessed the conflict in their communities, this would have been rarer among the females petitioning in England and Wales (although there are examples of women following army camps, living in garrison towns, or being combatants themselves). It is therefore clear that Joane’s and Marie’s narratives will express and emphasise different things. Joane’s experience of conflict, the way she recalls it, was very direct: some insurgent leaders ‘and a great number of their followers and people entered [her] dwelling house’, seized ‘some arms which the deponent’s said husband kept for the defence of himself and his family’ and carried away their animals and food. She then witnessed her husband being ‘carried by the rebels to Kilmore … as prisoner’, where he died. Joane’s deposition, however, somewhat unusually did not mention violence against her own body—many Irish depositions describe women being stripped of their clothes and being forced to flee their homes. Perhaps Joane did not experience this—if her husband’s imprisonment was the main goal of the rebels, they may not have been interested to humiliate his wife any more. Joane’s deposition claims that her losses added up to over £1200; a small fortune at the time. The wife of a rich yeoman, then, may not have been of interest as a target of further humiliation, as she was already ‘robbed and forcibly despoiled of all her estate’. However, these omissions can often have other causes too, such as the aforementioned fact that these actions were aimed to humiliate the victims. Marie Burton’s experience of conflict, although similar, was expressed in a slightly different way. She stated that her ‘family and estate’ were exposed ‘to the merciless cruelties of the enemy’, but these cruelties were not elaborated on. Whilst this phrase could have described the burden of taxation or free quarter, it was possible that it referred to more violent activities. It is unclear whether Marie experiened them, or whether she simply wished to state her vulnerability after her husband, John, enlisted himself as a soldier and left her and her four small children to fend for themselves. Unlike Joane who was regarded a victim by simply living in Dublin as a refugee who lost many material goods as well as her husband, Marie had to justify this status. Not only did she have to convince the Justices of the Peace in the county of Denbigh that she was in a ‘distressed condition’, but also that her husband was a loyal soldier who promoted ‘the parliament’s service to the utmost of his ability’. But is their experience that different after all? Although Joane, it is implied, witnessed the imprisonment of her husband personally, she, just like Marie—who received news of her husband’s ‘imprisonment, by the cruel and savage usage of the enemy’ and his consequent death—found out about it through someone else. Whether they received the bad news by letter, hearsay or via someone in the community, this aspect helps to level their stories. An interesting detail to note, however, is the fact that Marie’s petition initially said that her husband had been ‘slain’, and that this was crossed out and replaced with ‘dyed’. We cannot know whether Marie corrected this herself upon having the petition read back to her, or whether the scribe was the one who decided the latter word would be more appropriate. Either way, it suggests that whoever made this decision, acknowledged that the husband died in a more passive way as a prisoner, rather than being murdered instantly in a violent event. Additionally, just because Marie did not describe violence perpetrated within her home, does not mean that she, or other women in Wales, did not experience such incidents. If we were to assume that she did not suffer directly at the hands of the enemy, it would not be mistaken to claim she may have witnessed other lone women in Denbighshire faced violence. Marie, therefore, could have used their experiences to justify and explain her own fears. Her petition was submitted during the Second Civil War, and had she not trusted the Justices to be aware of local conflict and violence, it seems unlikely that she would have brought it up as a part of her plea for assistance. Unlike those deposing in Dublin, she was not there to recall events that the authorities were not witnesses to, but rather to fashion herself as a widow in need of help. Many women’s narratives in both the depositions and the petitions reflect not just their own stories, but also the stories of those around them. The aim of this comparison is not to suggest that Joane’s, Marie’s, or any other women’s sufferings were identical in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. Rather, this small case study illustrates that there are ways to compare, quite directly, the experiences of certain women (and men) in the Wars, whether they struggled in a conflict at their doorstep, or one farther away. Not many accounts can be compared as fairly, and it is undoubtable that many people deposing in the 1641 Depositions recall atrocities that few (if any) English and Welsh accounts can match. Nonetheless, it shows that narratives of suffering and loss can and should be compared—the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, as historians now acknowledge, were unavoidably and inextricably linked. From this we can assume that there is much scope to begin investigating whether their suffering was linked in the same way. Further Reading The 1641 Depositions Project http://1641.tcd.ie/ Nicholas Canny, Making Ireland British, 1580-1650 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001). Aidan Clarke, ‘1641 Depositions’ in Peter Fox (ed.), Treasures of the Library (Dublin, 1986), pp. 111-22. Imogen Peck, ‘The great unknown: the negotiation and narration of death by English war widows, 1647–1660’, Northern History, 53:2 (2016), pp. 220–35. Oresta Muckute is a first year PhD student at the University of Leicester. She is working on comparing the narratives of loss in Ireland, England, and Wales in the mid-17 century.
‘Your petitioner having much suffered’ – Petitioners to the Court of Wards during the British Civil Wars
For families, the impact of loss of life during the British Civil Wars often went beyond the emotional and financial. For those who held land as tenants-in-chief of the King, there was the added burden of wardship and the legal processes and expense that it incurred. Widows whose husbands had been slain in battle now had to face a contest of their own as they fought to keep the custody of their children and protect their inheritance against competitors who saw financial profit in obtaining the wardship for themselves. Between 1642 and 1646 this burden was often exacerbated by rivalries within families induced by the conflict. It was also affected by the increased complexity of the legal processes as the Court split, with rival courts at Oxford (for the King) and Westminster (for Parliament). In this blog, Diane Strange uses petitions to the Court of Wards to investigate some of the problems faced by its litigants, as well as how the Wars affected the running of the Court and contributed to its demise in 1646. On 19 November 1645 a petition arrived in front of Viscount Saye and Sele, master of the Court of Wards and Liveries in London. It came from Elizabeth Dawnay, widow of John Dawnay of Cowick, Yorkshire, and daughter of Sir Richard Hutton, the common-law judge who opposed Ship Money during the Personal Rule. Elizabeth explained that her ‘late brother’, the second Sir Richard Hutton, had died about twenty days previously, ‘seized of diuers Mannors and lands in the Countie of York ... leaueing his son & heire within age & in warde to his Ma[jes]tie’. As Ronald Hutton relates in his blog post Meet a magistrate, Sir Richard had fought valiantly for the King up to his death in battle at Sherburn-in-Elmet on 15 October 1645. The object of Elizabeth’s petition was the third Richard Hutton, Sir Richard’s son who, we are glad to learn from Ronald Hutton, survived the war and its aftermath and at last ‘lived out ... his days in peace.’ As Elizabeth went on rather breathlessly to explain, she had learned that Sir John Savile, a distant relative of the ward, had petitioned the Court already for young Richard’s wardship, ‘upon some p[re]tence of Alliance to the ward’. With a strength of will of which we hope her father would have been proud, Elizabeth asked for a supersedeas, a writ that would override Savile’s suit, and for permission to pursue the wardship herself, effectively ousting Savile from the case [TNA WARD 10/39part1]. Such competitions were common, since wardships could be lucrative and offered inviting scope for playing out feuds and family rivalries through the battle for the child – or children, where there were female coheirs. But this case had uncomfortable undertones. For whereas Hutton had died fighting for the Royalists, Savile was a Parliamentarian colonel in the northern army under Ferdinando Lord Fairfax. This, then, was a war within a war: the battle for custody of Richard and his estate between adherents to rival sides. Nevertheless, as Elizabeth had rushed her petition into Court just within the month allowed to relatives to prioritise their claim over other potential guardians, the staunchly Parliamentarian Saye authorised the supersedeas (perhaps with a sigh) and granted Elizabeth the writ that she sought. Elizabeth Dawnay’s anxious petition is just one of thousands to the Court that survive in The National Archives at Kew. They originate from all sorts of people, from nobility boasting thousands of acres of land, through the gentry, and down to the poorer sort with just a small tenement an acre or two worth no more than a few pence per annum. Almost all of them held their land from the king ‘in capite by knights service’, meaning that if upon the death of the tenant the heir was a minor – 21 for a boy, 14 for a girl – they were liable for a wardship, which embarked their family on a prolonged and costly legal process. ‘Knights service’ had once meant fighting for the king in defence of the kingdom in return for the grant of royal land. If the tenant was a minor, then they became a ‘ward of court’ until they came of age, giving the Crown the right to their marriage and the lease of their lands. The custom of obligatory military service was long defunct by the seventeenth century; instead, recompense for living on the royal demesne took the form of a fine, levied through the sale of ‘the wardship of the body and lands’ as the petitions frequently term it, and the right to arrange his or her marriage. Thankfully, the morality or otherwise of this need not trouble us here. Instead, the focus is on the petitions as historical documents and the shaft of light they shine on the hidden effects of the Civil Wars: the fate of the widows and children of the slain, and their lands. In its rawest state, a petition to a court of law was a simple initiation of a legal process: it advised the court of the matter at issue and set the business in motion. So Elizabeth Dawney, in common with thousands of petitioners like her, summarised what had happened and then stated, in suitably humble terms, what she desired. In most cases the petitioners were reporting that a death had occurred and that there was a tenure for the king, and they were asking to compound for the wardship of the heir. But hanging on this bare framework is a wealth of detail that gives us fascinating and often illuminating insights into the politics, society, economics and land distribution of the age. Like Elizabeth Dawnay’s, every petition tells a story. Each has its cast of characters with hopes, prejudices, rivalries or anxieties. A few evince a plot. Sometimes there is a heroine, but rarely is there a hero, and often we encounter a villain. Underpinning each story is a plethora of detail and information about the aspirations and disappointments of an incredibly diverse spread of humanity, and each one is indicative, in some microcosmic form, of what it meant to be human in early modern England. They represent a part of what Diarmaid MacCulloch has termed ‘the flotsam from a host of individual stories of human beings’, unlikely survivals of what over the centuries has been the widespread and often unwitting destruction of a morass of manuscript material. Individually, each petition contributes to a corner of historical knowledge; en masse, they help to emphasise how deeply embedded wardship was in early modern law, society and economy, and offer intriguing hints at why the wardship system escaped abolition for so long. The British Civil Wars witnessed the twilight and final closure of the Court, and as the petitions illustrate, the problems of wardship and the covetousness of the officials who perpetuated it, set down in The Grand Remonstrance of 1641, were exacerbated by the pressures of war and the rivalry that ensued as both sides fought for control. In a royal proclamation dated 27 December 1642, and much to Parliament’s chagrin, the King announced the removal of the Court of Wards to Oxford. Unyielding despite Parliament’s petition to let it remain at Westminster, Charles ordered its personnel to move with him, including Saye, who had replaced Lord Cottington as master during the King’s reshuffle of offices in April 1641. Not all were obedient to Charles’s will. Twelve Court officers refused the move, as did two local officials: ‘Geruase ffeodary of South[amp]ton’, and Thomas Goodyere, the feodary of Gloucestershire, denounced in a strong hand as ‘an Arch Rebell’. [BL Egerton 2978, f. 76]. Unsurprisingly Saye too refused to accompany Charles, and by order of the Lords remained at Westminster. Thus there was a ‘curious paradox’ as historian of the Court H.E. Bell wrote, ‘when the men who had consistently opposed wardship and livery themselves maintained their own Court of Wards and Liveries’. What previously few on either side had wanted, now both sides wanted: control of the wardship machine. Petitioners to the Court of Wards now faced a choice. Did they start process through the King’s Court, or Parliament’s? For many, it would have been an obvious choice; for others it would have been a traumatic decision. The fate of their children, their lands, their finances and their lineage might rest on the outcome. Insights into how people made that choice are still hazy. Few petitions to the Oxford Court have yet emerged, so it is not possible to compare the operation of the Courts through their petitioners or to determine how individuals made their choices. Logically, Royalists would be expected to petition the Oxford Court, with Parliamentarians petitioning Westminster. Yet the evidence suggests it was not that clear cut. Elizabeth Dawnay petitioned Lord Saye despite her royalism, but as Sir John Savile had initiated the business through the Westminster Court she might have felt obliged to pursue that course. What the petitions suggest, however, is that some Royalists petitioned the Westminster Court voluntarily. Dame Elizabeth Hewett petitioned in 1644 for the wardship of her grandson, 17-year-old Thomas Richardson, the son of Lord Chief Justice Sir Thomas Richardson, a Royalist supporter who died in prison in Norwich in 1644. Also in 1644, Richard Foxley petitioned for the wardship of Newdigate Poyntz’s son; Poyntz was killed while fighting for the King at the battle of Gainsborough, which took place on 28 July 1643. We also find Lady Anne Harcourt petitioning the Court on 30 December 1645. Lady Anne was the widow of the Royalist Sir Simon Harcourt, who died fighting Irish rebels three years earlier, in 1642 [WARD 10/42part2]. It is nonetheless noteworthy that Lady Anne was still seeking a writ in 1645, three years after her husband’s death. Lady Anne’s case may suggest that Saye was unwilling to prioritise the suit of someone who had been shown open favour by the King. Charles had lauded Sir Simon for his service in Ireland following news of his death and had rewarded him posthumously: ‘after “much bewayling the losse” of Sir Simon, the King granted the forfeited lands and castle where Sir Simon had fallen to Harcourt’s widow and children.’ Saye, perhaps, felt little incentive to assist the widow of a fêted Royalist. Royalists might have made this choice because they found it hard to break with legal tradition or because they doubted the credentials of the breakaway Court. Or possibly the long-established Westminster Court was deemed to function more effectively than its Oxford rival. Bell, who has conducted some of the only research into the bifurcated nature of Court during the Civil Wars, was left with the impression ‘that the scope of the Oxford Court was limited’. Did any cases where there were rival competitors to the wardship, such as that of Elizabeth Dawney and Sir John Savile, involve petitions to both Courts, with rival claimants in each? It seems likely: but so far the evidence is lacking. What can be suggested, however, is that the Oxford Court was less well organised than the Westminster Court, not least because it lacked its Master. In the early months of the conflict Cottington was lying low at his house in Fonthill Gifford, Wiltshire, and did not join the King at Oxford until April 1643. In his absence, petitions were being handled by Charles’s secretary Sir Edward Walker, and by Richard Chamberlain, clerk of the Court, and some at least were overseen by Charles himself. [BL Egerton 2978, f. 87] The problems of running a court in wartime were not limited to Oxford. During the 1640s the Court began to witness a rapid rise in a form of petition rarely seen in earlier decades: prompts for the Master to appoint a date for a hearing. A slackening of business due to the difficulties of the times is evident from mid-1642. Margery Caesar, the guardian of John Caesar, a ward, petitioned on 15 June 1642 asking for a hearing; a month later, Roger Bodenham saw fit to reminded the Court that the depositions relating to his case had been published, ‘and the Cause [is] ready for hearing as by y[ou]r ord[e]r hereunto annexed may appear’. The widow Jane Dockwray, a defendant, also petitioned in 1642 asking for a hearing, reminding Saye that the case was ‘Ripe for yo[u]r Lor[dshi]pps Judgm[en]t’ [WARD 10/42part2]. Many more petitions tell a similar story of cases delayed or postponed and suggest that even before the split, the Court was experiencing difficulties in coping as the crisis unfolded. As the conflict developed, petitioners also found it difficult to pursue their cases due to the upheavals of war. Elizabeth Bewicke first petitioned for the wardship of her son in April 1642. She petitioned again in June, pleading for further time to find the office because of the absence of the necessary commissioners ‘beinge att London aboute business in parliam[ent]’. ‘The great destracc[i]ons of the times’ prevented Elizabeth Spitty from prosecuting her case in May 1644, while due to the plunder of Sir Edward Peyto’s house and the removal of the evidences late in 1645, Devereaux Peyto and James Prescott were hampered in their wardship bid. They, too, sought a grant of further time [WARD 10/39part1]. What many of these petitioners never got was any form of closure. Neither Elizabeth Dawnay nor Sir John Savile nor the persistent Dame Anne Harcourt could expect an official resolution to their fights, as the Court of Wards was formally abolished by the Long Parliament on 24 February 1646. In the following July the royal seal was brought from Oxford to London and broken. For many, the abolition came not a day too soon. Feudal tenures had long been thought on as an anachronism, a relic of dead times, an uncomfortable survival of pre-Reformation ideologies and honour values that had no place in the sensitive Protestant milieu of early modern England and Wales. Men no longer performed military service in return for land; family values were changing and the child was deemed to belong with the mother in the family home, not to be farmed out at the Court’s discretion. Feudal tenures had become an exploitative system of revenue generation, a tax on land – and no one loves a tax. Speaking at a conference of the Lords and Commons back in March 1610, the Earl of Salisbury had expressed the importance of wardship to the king in a rather strained metaphor, volunteering that it was ‘not a leaf but a bough and arm of ... a great tree in his garland’. Now the great limb had been struck from the royal garland and few were sorry to see it go. Especially glad, no doubt, were the thousands of petitioners for whom the stress of wardship and its associated litigation had been added to the tragedy and loss inflicted on them by the British Civil Wars. Further Reading E. Bell, An introduction to the history and records of the Court of Wards & Liveries (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1953), pp. 150–153. Richard Cust, Charles I and the aristocracy, 1625–1642 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), p. 232. Mark Charles Fissell, English Warfare, 1511–1642, 2nd edition (Oxford: Routledge, 2016 [First edition 1991]), p. 281. Elizabeth Read Foster (ed.), Proceedings in Parliament 1610, Vol. I: House of Lords (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1966), p. 25. Martin J. Havran, Caroline courtier: the life of Lord Cottington, (London: Macmillan, 1973), p. 159. Diarmaid MacCulloch, A history of Christianity, 2nd edition (London: Penguin, 2010), p. 11. Diane Strange is an M4C AHRC-funded PhD student at the University of Leicester. Her research focuses on petitions and petitioning strategies to the Court of Wards and Liveries between 1610 and 1645. She is currently developing her research into petitions to the Court of Wards during the British Civil Wars into a journal article, which she hopes to publish in 2021. Diane is the author of ‘From Private Sin to Public Shame: Sir John Digby and the use of Star Chamber in Northamptonshire and Bedfordshire, 1610’, Midland History, Vol. 44, No. 1 (Spring 2019), pp. 39–55, which won the Midland History Essay Prize in 2018. She is also the co-editor of the brochure for ‘The World Turned Upside Down’ exhibition at the National Civil War Centre.
Margaret Nightingale: War Widow – and Witch?
In recent years historians have become increasingly interested in the occult dimension of the English Civil War: in the attempts which were made by Parliamentarian and Royalist propagandists to capitalise on the contemporary fear of witches, and in the ways in which that fear manifested itself on the ground during the conflict - most notoriously, perhaps, during the terrible witch-hunt which broke out in Parliamentarian-controlled East Anglia in 1645, under the direction of the self-styled ‘Witchfinder General’, Matthew Hopkins. It is well known that the great majority of those who were prosecuted as witches in early modern England were women, and that, of these women, a high proportion were widows. Hopkins’s very first victim, indeed, was Elizabeth Clarke: a one-legged widow from Manningtree, in Essex, who was hanged at Chelmsford for witchcraft in July 1645. There is nothing to indicate that Clarke’s deceased husband had been a soldier - but recent research for the ‘Conflict, Welfare and Memory’ project has uncovered evidence which suggests that at least one seventeenth-century Englishwoman did suffer the devastating twin blows of first seeing her husband slain as a soldier during the Civil War and, then, many years later, undergoing prosecution as a witch. This blog-post, by Mark Stoyle, tells her story... In April 1661, almost a year after the Restoration of Charles II, the justices of the peace of the city and county of Exeter - the regional capital of South West England and then one of the kingdom’s largest urban communities - assembled at the Guildhall in order to sit as magistrates at the Easter meeting of the city’s quarter sessions court. With their judicial duties discharged, the JPs then turned to consider the annual rate which was levied on the nineteen city parishes for the support of the poor and, having set the amount for the following year, went on to direct that a large proportion of the monies raised should be spent, as usual, on providing relief for three specific groups of local ‘paupers’: the prisoners in the town gaol; the residents of the alms-houses at St Anne’s Chapel, in the suburban parish of St Sidwell’s, and the residents of St Katherine’s alms-houses, near the Cathedral. Yet, on this particular occasion, the JPs departed from their normal practice by identifying a fourth group of indigent persons whom they deemed to be worthy of the citizens’ collective charity and by ordering that ‘the residue’ of the monies raised from the rate should be paid ‘to the maymed souldiers [of this city] as the Justices … shall … direct’. Having recorded the JPs’ instruction in the quarter session order book, the clerk of the court then listed at the bottom of the page the names of nine men - four of them inhabitants of St Sidwell’s, and one of them a resident of St Katherine’s alms-house - all of whom, he noted, were from henceforth to be paid pensions of between £1 10 s. and £3 a year. We know for certain that one of the maimed soldiers who was supported by the rate had been wounded while serving in the Royalist army during the Civil War, and it seems highly likely that most, if not all, of the others had been too. The JPs’ order of April 1661 thus suggests that, in Exeter - as in several other English counties - magistrates had begun to award pensions to ex-Royalist soldiers who had been injured and had consequently fallen on hard times even before they had been specifically enjoined to do so in the Act ‘for the releife of poore and maimed … souldiers who have faithfully served his majesty and his royal father in the late wars’ which was to be passed by the so-called ‘Cavalier Parliament’ during the following year. As well as instructing JPs to arrange for the provision of pensions to former soldiers who had been injured while fighting for Charles I, the Act of 1662 also instructed them to provide unspecified forms of financial relief to ‘the Widowes … of such as have died … in the said service’. The inclusion of this latter clause in the Act almost certainly explains why, when the JPs next met to review the poor rate, in April 1662, they ordered that pensions should be paid, not only to ten maimed soldiers living within the county and city of Exeter, but to two soldiers’ widows as well. About the first of these women, a certain ‘Barbara Slooman’, little further evidence survives. The value of the pension awarded to her was left blank by the clerk of the court in 1662, but in subsequent years she enjoyed an annual stipend of £1 10 s. The second female recipient of the magistrates’ bounty was ‘Margarett Knightingall, widow’, under whose name the clerk scribbled the three additional words ‘her husband slayne’, meaning, presumably, that Nightingale’s husband had been killed while serving as a Royalist soldier during the Civil War. For reasons which remain unclear, Nightingale was awarded a slightly larger pension than Slooman: a stipend of £2 a year. This was a respectable sum - especially as post-Restoration JPs were far more likely to palm-off Royalist soldiers’ widows with a one-off gratuity of a few shillings than to award them a regular pension of the type which Slooman and Nightingale had secured. This atypical generosity becomes all the more surprising when we consider that, less than a year before Margaret Nightingale was awarded a widow’s pension by the Exeter magistrates, she had been tried before those same magistrates as a suspected witch. Nightingale had initially been denounced to the civic authorities in June 1661, after Maria Knowsley - the infant daughter of William Knowsley, a baker of Holy Trinity parish - had been ‘violently taken in fitts’. Desperate to find out what was wrong with his child, Knowsley had sought an acquaintance’s advice, only to receive the chilling assurance ‘that the said child was bewitched by some person’. Upon hearing these words, the terrified Knowsley had at once recalled that, at the time when Marie had first gone into convulsions, ‘one Margaret Knightingall of … [Exeter], widowe, was then in his house who hath beene formerlie convicted for witchcrafts & inchantments’. Knowsley had promptly rushed to inform the mayor of Exeter - who was also one of the JPs - of his suspicions: assuring him that he ‘verilie beleiveth that the said Margarett Knightingall did practice on his childe & is [the] cause of its distemper’, and adding, as further proof of his claim, ‘that the childe hath beene taken in such fitts [several times] since att the sight of the said Margaret Knightingall’. Knowsley’s accusation had clearly been taken extremely seriously by the mayor and by his fellow-magistrates - all the more so as the unfortunate child had died soon afterwards - and in September 1661 Margaret Nightingale had accordingly been brought before the sessions court at the Guildhall and charged with having murdered Maria Knowsley through the exercise of ‘witchcrafts, inchantments, charmes and sorceries’. Had Nightingale been found guilty on this charge, she could well have been sentenced to death by hanging, as so many other supposed ‘witches’ had been in England over the course of the preceding century. Yet, by the time of the Restoration, judicial scepticism about the possibility of proving, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the supernatural ‘crime’ of witchcraft had really been committed was beginning to grow. It may well have been partly as a result of this shifting intellectual climate that the trial jury, or the judge - or possibly both - had eventually concluded that Nightingale was not guilty of bewitching the dead child, and the widow had been permitted to go free. How can we explain the fact that Margaret Nightingale, a woman whom we know for certain to have been indicted for witchcraft at the Exeter sessions court in September 1661 - and whom we may strongly suspect, on the basis of William Knowsley’s testimony, to have been actually convicted of that same offence on a previous, unspecified, occasion - should have been awarded a widow’s pension by the town magistrates just seven months later: this at a time when the granting of financial relief to both maimed soldiers and their widows tended to depend not only on those individuals’ wartime conduct but also on their social reputations? The sheer size of Exeter’s population - well over 12,000 people in 1662 - makes it hard to believe that Nightingale and Slooman were the only Royalist soldiers’ widows in the city and had therefore been chosen as the lucky recipients of pensions on that basis alone. It also seems unlikely - though not, perhaps, impossible - that Nightingale had a personal connection with one of the justices. Is it conceivable, then, that the decision to award Nightingale a pension was the result of some sort of politico-religious tussle within the city’s ruling elite? Could members of Exeter’s powerful puritan/non-conformist faction have chosen to encourage, or even to orchestrate, the prosecution of an ex-Royalist soldier’s wife as a witch? And could a majority group of Anglican/Royalist JPs on the bench have then chosen to celebrate Nightingale’s acquittal - and to thumb their noses as their discomfited rivals - by awarding her an annual stipend? Or is the most likely reason that this reputed ‘witch’ was granted a pension simply that she was even more wretchedly poor than were the other Royalist soldiers’ widows who were scratching out a living in post-Restoration Exeter? Whatever the true circumstances may have been, the story of Margaret Nightingale reminds us that, while, in many ways, the experiences of the men and women who lived through the English Civil War exhibit clear parallels with those of individuals who have lived through much more recent conflicts, in other respects, the experiences of mid-seventeenth-century combatants and their families now seem almost impossibly remote. Further Reading M. Gaskill, Witchfinders: A Seventeenth Century English Tragedy (London, 2005). S. Beale, ‘Military Welfare in the Midland Counties during and after the British Civil Wars, 1642-1700’, Midland History, 45 (2020), pp. 1-18. M. Stoyle, ‘Witchcraft in Exeter: The Cases of Bridget Wotton and Margaret Nightingale’ (forthcoming in Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries, 2020).
The Case for Universal Access and Design: The Example of the Civil War Petitions Project
Digital humanities projects such as the Civil War Petitions project have led to unprecedented ease of access to a variety of source material in multiple archives across national and international boundaries. For many scholars working in digital humanities these exciting and innovative developments are slowly changing how we work. In the field of digital archives these developments are particularly encouraging for scholars and students with disabilities whether they be mobility related, sensory or neurological. It is also encouraging for those without disabilities but who are limited in their ability to visit archives, handle and read archival material. However, many scholars in the field of disability and digital humanities have stated that using digital technology to overcome these barriers is more than just putting archival material online. Scholars strongly advocate an approach of ‘Universal Design’ a set of principles in the design, output and user interaction of online materials with the aim of reaching and catering for the widest possible audience. This blogpost aims to outline and discuss the importance of universal access and design in the digital humanities with specific reference to the Civil War Petitions project. It will define universal access and design by outlining its key features, arguing why issues of universal access and design should be mandatory considerations when creating and developing a digital archive or any digital humanities resource. It will then reflect on the current benefits and key features of the Civil War Petitions project that enable historians to work remotely or use the archive in ways that would not be possible in a traditional setting. It will draw attention to the advantages of using WordPress as a tool to promote universal access for all. What is Universal Design and Why is it important? In his seminal work on the subject George Williams defines the universal design principle as one where the largest audience is to be kept in mind when designing, creating and maintaining digital humanities projects. North Carolina State University’s College of Design states that universal design is ‘designing all products and the built environment to be aesthetic and useable to the greatest extent possible by everyone regardless, of their age, ability and status in life’ (Williams, p. 204). Indeed, those working in digital humanities should look beyond accessibility which aims to cater for a wide range of individual disabilities with bespoke targeted solutions and embrace the all encompassing concept of universal design which assists everyone. Lisa Potts has argued that digital humanities projects need to reach beyond their specialised field of researchers and attract the widest possible audience. Digital humanities scholars need to focus on the usability of their sites to attract these wide audiences. Williams highly recommends that all scholars working in the field of digital humanities should adhere to the recommendations of the web accessibility initiative when building a digital humanities project. Key recommendations on web content include providing text alternatives for non-text content, providing captions and other alternatives for multimedia and creating content that can be presented in different ways through the use of assistive technologies making it easier for users to see and hear content (Williams, p. 207; Potts, pp. 255-263; Web Accessibility Initiative, ‘WCAG 2.1 At a Glance’. For a critical evaluation of these guidelines, see Goggin and Newell, p. 1 and 118-119). The full documentation can be accessed here: https://www.w3.org/WAI/standards-guidelines/. Why is this important? In the UK standards of web accessibility are enshrined in law. This is in line with the wider goals of the EU and the UN to pursue accessibility and inclusion in education. Williams argues that as the majority of digital humanities projects are pursued by publicly funded universities and other institutions projects therefore should be made as accessible as possible. Underpinning these ambitions are the pursuits of social justice and equality. Williams believes that all scholars and IT professionals should take an active interest and approach to the issue rather than waiting for governments to enforce the changes (Williams, pp. 205-206). The Civil War Petitions Project: Enabling Independence Before we focus on the key features of the civil war petitions project and its platform WordPress to enable universal design, we need to take a step back and reflect on key advantages of the project in terms of enabling full scholarly independence for a wide range scholars and students. It is estimated that 20% of the world population has some form of disability. Disability can affect everyone regardless of age, ability or social status. Anyone at any age or social background can become ill or disabled in their lifetime. Therefore, it is in everyone’s interests that we promote efforts to enable scholarly independence via digital humanities which helps facilitate inclusion and diversity within the history profession. These considerations co-exist and are inseparable from key arguments for universal design. The Civil War Petitions Project brings together thousands of petitions dating from the mid seventeenth century from a variety of archives across the UK making them accessible online. It aids the ability of all scholars to access these materials at a time of their choosing and from home. Therefore, it saves time and money by cutting out the need to travel to archives and by doing so saving money on travel and accommodation. This is particularly important if you are a self-funded postgraduate or if you do not have the financial resources to travel. For scholars and students with limited mobility there are additional advantages too. Despite clear efforts by UK archives to enable physical accessibility to repositories, due to the nature of their locations or the age of buildings, not all archives are easily accessible to wheelchair users or those with limited mobility. In such situations, archives are very happy to make alternative arrangements with advance notice. However, the advantage of the Civil War Petitions Project is that it gives scholars with mobility impairments full independence in consulting key primary material without the need to worry about access or special arrangements. It also allows a number of these scholars to make large financial savings as many rely on assistants and carers who accompany them during their travels. Physical access to the archive is one matter but consulting and taking notes from archival material is another. It brings its own set of challenges depending on the disability. I may be stating the obvious but seventeenth-century manuscripts are not in written in braille neither can text be audible to the reader. The widespread practice of allowing readers to take their own digital images of manuscripts has broken down some of these barriers especially for those of us who have had to rely on a scribe to assist with notetaking. Digital photography via mobile phones can cut down or remove the costly business of ordering copies. The Civil War Petitions project takes these developments further and allows all scholars to access material from a large cross section of archives. All scholars can work at their own pace, re-read material, compare and contrast a wide selection of source material all from the comfort of their own home or the office. The use of WordPress as a platform allows all scholars, including those who use assistive technology, to use the material in a variety of different ways that would be impossible in a traditional archival setting. Arguably, it creates a digital research community with a sense of belonging where a large number of users can access material regardless of age, ability or status. In doing so it promotes equality, diversity and inclusion within UK Higher Education (Konnerup, pp. 195, 198 and 203). WordPress and Assistive Technologies The use of assistive technologies is a highly complex subject which depends on individual disabilities and the various research and learning styles amongst scholars. An easy to use interface that can be used by the widest possible audience should be a central concern in digital humanities (Konnerup, p. 196). WordPress which is used by the Civil War Petitions Project has a simple, easy to use and effective interface for all its users. There are a number of WordPress plugins that make its content more accessible and bring us closer to succeeding in our ambitions for universal design in digital humanities: The Braille plug in developed by the University of Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities which combines with Anthologize plug which enables users to turn WordPress content into book form and translate English text into braille (University of Maryland, ‘Braille’). The Responsive Voice Text to Speech plug in allows WordPress text to be converted to speech (Responsivevoice, ‘Responsivevoice’). Able Player plug in allows you to provide audio and other accessible features to your videos and multimedia content (Armentrout, ‘Able Player’). Even though these plug ins are in their early stages of development their very existence is extremely encouraging. It is hoped that one day many of these plug ins and other features which enable scholarly independence will become standard in the design of websites and blogs in the future. Thus, making universal design and access a reality for everyone in the academic world whether they be academics, students or the general public helping to bring history to life for everyone regardless of their age, ability or social status. Further Reading Armentrout Damion, ‘Able Player’ https://en-gb.wordpress.org/plugins/wp-able-player/ [Last accessed 28/04/20]. Goggin Gerard and Newell Christopher, Digital Disability: The Social Construction of Disability in the New Media (Oxford, 2003). Konnerup Ulla, ‘Inclusive Digital Technologies for People with Communication Disabilities’ in Kergel David and Heidkamp Birte eds., The Digital Turn in Higher Education: International Perspectives on Teaching and Learning in an International World (Weisbaden, 2018). Potts Lisa, ‘Archive Experiences: A Vision for User Centred Design in the Digital Humanities’ in Ridolfo Jim and Hart-Davidson William, Rhetoric in the Digital Humanities (Chicago, 2015). Responsivevoice, ‘Responsivevoice’ https://en-gb.wordpress.org/plugins/responsivevoice-text-to-speech/ [Last accessed 28/4/20] University of Maryland, Maryland Institute for the Humanities, ‘Braille’ https://wpsocket.com/plugin/braille/ [Last accessed 28/04/20]. W3: Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) ‘WCAG 2.1 At a Glance’ https://www.w3.org/WAI/standards-guidelines/wcag/glance/ [Last accessed 27/04/2020] Williams, George H, ‘Disability, Universal Design and Digital Humanities’ in Gold, Matthew K ed., Debates in Digital Humanities (Minneapolis, 2012). Dr Kirsteen M MacKenzie is a historian specialising in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms 1638-1660 and Jacobitism c.1688-1788. Her monograph on the Solemn League and Covenant and the Three Kingdoms c.1643-1663 was published by Routledge in 2017. Her current interests are in British and Irish book history c.1603-1707. Dr MacKenzie is registered disabled and has a keen interest in how digital humanities can make history accessible for everyone. Dr MacKenzie has a Twitter feed @HistorianRemote which explores online and digital resources in history for higher education. You can also follow her on Twitter at @kirsteenMM
‘The utter ruin of this poor town’: Quartering Soldiers in Haverfordwest during the Second Civil War.
Previous blogs have looked at the types and nature of paid employment undertaken by the mothers and wives of maimed soldiers and war widows in order to compensate for the damaging consequences of disablement and death to the family income, whilst these and other blogs have emphasised the role of the family in providing long-term care for the sick and wounded. But, as Verne Walker explains in this guest blog, it was not just the women of military families who were forced to take on new jobs or caring duties in the Civil Wars. Whilst the Civil Wars in Wales and the events of the so-called 'Second Civil War' in particular have often been neglected in the scholarship, she uses the mayoral accounts of the Welsh town of Haverfordwest in 1648 to provide a fascinating insight into the impact of the Civil Wars on civilian women... ‘It is one of the virtues of war that it puts the light which in peacetime is hid under a bushel in such prominence that all can see it,’ wrote Jenny Randolph Churchill on women’s work in the First World War; and this may hold true for other conflicts. The role of women can also be glimpsed through the records relating to the Second Civil War in Wales from the town of Haverfordwest. The county of Pembrokeshire saw the siege of Pembroke Castle in 1648 which lasted from Oliver Cromwell’s arrival around 24 May 1648 to its surrender on the 11 July. The siege resulted in many wounded needing care and maintenance. Although the quarter session records for Pembrokeshire, and hence any local petitions are lost, the borough records for the town of Haverfordwest, eleven miles to the north of Pembroke and the principal market town of the county, record the arrangements for the quartering and care for both prisoners and the wounded from the siege. These records show the community care which soldiers received before they returned to their families and as such fill a gap in the records that the petitions do not necessarily capture. The records reveal that work for women in Haverfordwest was contingent on the demands of the war. The mayoral accounts for Haverfordwest for 1648 list payments to local women for the care of prisoners from the siege. The town held 84 prisoners, some of whom were injured, ‘which came from Pembroke at ‘at a cost to the town of ‘2d apiece p[er] diem’. Three unnamed women of the town were paid for fetching ‘5 burdens of straw for the prison[ers] to lye upon’ in the Shire Hall where they were held. Later a woman was paid three pence for cleaning after them. It may be considered fortunate that the men had been provided with ‘great pots to make water in’. There is nothing in these accounts that would suggest that the work that these women were doing was linked to the provision of poor relief in any way. The tasks are gendered work in the very masculine space of the shire hall. The task had the twofold benefit of helping the community in its duty of holding prisoners, but it also allowed the women to earn money to supplement family income. In records that abound with names of persons to whom payments are made it is significant that for the jobs associated with the lower orders and especially women, the recipients are rarely named. The care of soldiers was not just a job for the lower orders; the better off also took part in the necessary tasks associated with war. The quartering of dragoons after the siege of Pembroke was also a duty that fell upon the townspeople of Haverfordwest. The town’s stretched resources caused the council to write to the leading New Model Army officer in the region, Colonel Thomas Horton, in October 1648, that the town could not afford to house further troops. Despite this, accommodation was found not only for the men but for their horses also. The task of lodging these men fell to the better off householders in the town who had the capacity for liverying horses. William Davis was paid from the town accounts, fifteen shillings for housing two men and two horses for three days in October 1648, and ‘Widdow Kneethell’ five shillings for one day. These proportions suggest that a set rate was adopted for paying the townsfolk in their support of the wounded soldiers. The rates were paid by the borough and may have reflected the rank of the men being lodged, possibly officers or troopers given the status of their lodgings and presence of horses. This did not mean that the men were affable houseguests though. Colonel Horton based at Tenby who had men quartered in Haverfordwest had to threaten his troops with disciplinary action due to some of them behaving in a rowdy manner, forcing their hosts to send them to lodge in ‘inns and alehouses’ which suggests a degree of tension between the townspeople and the quartered troops. The housing of these men may not have always been straightforward, but there were other soldiers who required more intense labour from their host households. The care of injured soldiers, sometimes over many weeks, also fell to the middling sorts. The names of the people to whom payments were made are listed in the mayoral accounts. The payments were mostly made to men, the head of household being named for payment for the care; however, it is most likely that the actual care of the injured fell to the women, nursing being seen as work for which women were more suitable. There is no record in the accounts of any other medical aid for these men by surgeons, and the quartering could last for months with some of the men dying of their wounds. Henry Lewis was paid for the care of one man for 27 weeks until he ‘went away’. Griffith Phillips was paid three shillings and sixpence per week for one man for four weeks before the man died. One widow, Margott Fowth, received four shillings for quartering a sick soldier who later died, money being provided for his shroud and burial. Balthazar Goffe quartered John Beeres for ten weeks. This care included providing clothing and travel expenses such as the hire of horses, when the men were ready to leave. The amounts and length of stay reflect the level of care the wounded needed and hence the severity of their wounds. A petition from local people to the mayor and aldermen of the town in February 1649 makes clear that the cost to the town was becoming unmanageable and though the inhabitants had ‘cheerfully’ looked after the injured men there was a feeling that they should be moved back to their headquarters, a moot point as the army was purposely quartering the troops in the county. Whilst this petition was worded carefully to avoid any sense of recrimination, there is a clear sense that the townspeople felt they had done enough. In a letter surviving from 1652, when the town was facing crippling assessments and the local economy had been impacted by an outbreak of plague, the overall cost to the town for the care of the wounded soldiers in 1648 was put at £420 for six weeks, making it hard for the town to meet the assessment payments. However, it is clear that some injured men were cared for far longer. Women were previously visible in the town accounts working as low-paid, unskilled workers doing heavy tasks, such as carrying stones and water during building work, prior to and during the early years of the civil wars. This time of increased burden on the town in 1648 from quartered soldiers, both fit and wounded, also saw the order for Haverfordwest castle to be demolished to prevent it being used against the parliamentarian forces in the same way as Pembroke Castle. The cost fell on the town. An urgent rate was imposed on the surrounding hundreds and so the order to demolish the castle had a far-reaching impact in the county. There could be no doubt that the parliamentary forces were stamping their authority on the county by destroying the material culture of the local elites. The mayoral accounts show multiple payments to masons, smiths, carpenters and labourers for the demolition work on the castle in 1648. Despite the visibility of women in the early part of the war in moving stones as day-waged labourers, in this task there were no women paid for work. The task was urgent as can be seen in a draft warrant to the high constables giving instructions to collect an urgent rate for the demolition funds and extra labour was needed to help complete the task. Rather than supplementing the labour of the town with women as would be usual, the presence of colliers in the lists of payments suggest that men were brought from the nearby coal-mining areas to bolster the workforce of the town. In 1652 the cost of the demolition was put at £40. Women were paid less than men for this type of work so it should have been more cost effective for the town to use female labourers at this time, as was previously the custom. The absence of women may be due to extra domestic and nursing work needed in the town to cope with the number of wounded, sick and quartered soldiers. Their previous presence in hard labour suggests their skills were needed elsewhere. As the payments for the care of wounded men went to the head of the household it is impossible to see if payments were then made to local women for extra help. However, the absence of women in a role they would customarily take is suggestive of their engagement elsewhere. The records from Haverfordwest show the pressure put on the town in the aftermath of the siege in Pembroke and how the community responded to the requirements placed upon them. They demonstrate how women’s work was contingent on the needs of the town during a period of crisis and how the usual work of the townswomen changed to meet the varying needs of the time. Further Reading Arthur Leonard Leach, The History of the Civil War (1642-9) in Pembrokeshire (London: H.F. & Witherby Ltd, 1937). Roland Mathias, ‘The Second Civil War and Interregnum’, in Brian Howells (ed.), Pembrokeshire County History, Volume III (Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire Historical Society, 1987). Verne Walker is studying for an MA at the University of Leicester. Her research interests include women's work and the history of early modern Wales.
The Wounded of Naseby
Fought on 14 June 1645, Naseby has long been considered the decisive engagement of the First Civil War. There are many well-known sources for the conduct and experiences of the rival leaders and commanders. Yet little was known about the fate of those wounded at Naseby until the publication of Glenn Foard’s landmark monograph of 1995, Naseby: The Decisive Campaign. Therefore, on 7 February 2020, Andrew Hopper was delighted to be invited by Arthur, Lord Hazlerigg, to speak about Naseby’s wounded in order to promote the opening of the Naseby 375th anniversary exhibition at Daventry Museum on behalf of the Naseby Battlefield Project. One highlight of the exhibition is this little known painting of the battlefield of Naseby from c.1680 by an unknown artist (and we are most grateful to Daventry Museum for permission to reproduce this here). It appears to be derived from the better known engraving by Robert Streeter, and can also be seen on p. 51 of Martin Marix Evans’s Osprey book on Naseby (see 'Further Reading'). It exaggerates the hilly terrain of Naseby and labels the parliamentarian forces ‘The Rebells’. Thanks to Civil War Petitions, which can now be searched by events such as battles, our published petitions and certificates are already revealing to us more about the identities of those individual wounded troopers and soldiers that made up the regiments depicted on this painting. Glenn Foard’s book established more about the treatment of the better-documented parliamentarian wounded than their royalist counterparts. Those parliamentarians who were too dangerously injured to be moved were quartered for days afterwards in the timber-framed and cob cottages of Naseby village, where local inhabitants nursed them in their own homes. In an appendix in his book, Foard summarized an account held among the Commonwealth Exchequer Papers in the National Archives (SP 28/173, Part 1). This account names 535 parliamentarian wounded, arranged by regiment, who were brought into Northampton after the battle. Of these 44 later died of their wounds and are marked individually ‘mortuus est’. The Committee of the Army granted the wounded £700 and this account shows how over £697 of that sum was disbursed to pay for the surgery, nursing, diet and accommodation of individual soldiers. Some wounded were treated in St John’s Hospital on Bridge Street, while others were fed and nursed in the ‘hospitall barne’. Northampton and Wellingborough householders were paid for quartering wounded soldiers. Payments were listed to named surgeons and unnamed nurses and surgeons’ mates. Thomas Brighton was paid five pounds for transporting eighteen wounded to hospital in London. Casualties were heaviest in Sergeant-Major General Philip Skippon’s regiment of foot, which bore the brunt of the royalist infantry’s attack, and suffered 139 wounded, on top of those killed outright. Commanders of the New Model Army were among the wounded too. The commander-in-chief, Sir Thomas Fairfax was fortunate to emerge unscathed, when after losing his helmet and refusing a replacement, he charged bare-headed into the enemy. Colonel Edward Whalley had his coat cut ‘in many peeces’ but remained unharmed. Commissary-General Henry Ireton had his horse shot under him, and was run through the thigh with a pike. He was also struck in the face with a halberd and temporarily captured. Yet Ireton recovered from these wounds quite quickly to participate in the storming of Bristol three months later. Of all those wounded at Naseby, we know the most about Sergeant-Major General Skippon, thanks to the research of our project manager, Ismini Pells. Dr Pells has shown how Skippon was accidentally shot in his right side by one of his own musketeers. Fortunately, the bullet missed his spine and vital organs but it left him with an eight-inch-long exit-wound on his left side. Skippon refused to leave the field, saying ‘He would not go so long as a Man would stand’. Consequently, he lost much blood, whilst a rag from his waistcoat got stuck in the wound and infected it. Afterwards, Skippon was taken to a nearby house to have his wound dressed but soon fell into a fever. The House of Commons paid to send Skippon his own doctor and surgeon from London to tend his wound, whilst his regimental surgeon removed the scrap of waistcoat festering in it. A month later, Skippon was transported to London. As his horse-litter was drawn through Islington, a great mastiff surprised and attacked one of the horses. This shook the litter violently and Skippon’s wounded body inside it. Eventually, a soldier ran the dog through with a sword, saving Skippon’s life. Ultimately, Skippon’s treatment cost hundreds of pounds. He was fortunate to survive. He took eleven months to recover before returning to active duty at the siege of Oxford in May 1646. Royalist casualties were much heavier, especially because the parliamentarian cavalry pursued the retreating royalists for five miles, killing and wounding several hundred after the main battle had finished. The day after the battle, 4,508 royalist prisoners, including some wounded were marched from Market Harborough to Northampton. Accommodated in parish churches on their southward march to London, they passed though Olney, Bedford, Dunstable, Luton, St Albans and Barnet. There were wounded among these prisoners, because surgeons were dispatched to treat them from the parliamentarian garrison at Newport Pagnell. On 21 June, about 3,000 prisoners were paraded through London and Westminster. One French onlooker was surprised by how well they looked, which suggests that by this stage few of the royalist wounded were left among them. They were kept in the Artillery Ground near Tuttle Fields while Parliament considered their disposal. The London-based Committee of Adventurers for Ireland paid for the treatment of Naseby’s wounded royalist prisoners who volunteered to fight for Parliament in Ireland. Around 800 did so. All others who refused to forsake armed royalism risked deportation overseas. Many spent the next year or more in prison, but around 1,000 of them eventually joined the New Model Army. They were attracted by the regular pay and relative safety of service, as by summer 1646 little fighting appeared necessary. The royalist Sir Philip Warwick recalled that after Oxford’s surrender in June 1646, Fairfax told him that ‘the best common soldiers he had’ were formerly in royalist service: ‘So (sayes he) I found you had made them good soldiers, & I have made them good men.’ Many of Naseby’s wounded died well after the battle’s conclusion, sometimes years or even decades later, having lived with terrible pain from lingering wounds. Payments for those who returned home can sometimes be found in parish records. For example, that churchwardens’ accounts of Stockton in Norfolk, kindly shared with us by Tim Wales, list a payment of fifteen shillings to John Bird when he was pressed into military service for the parish in 1643. Bird received a further ten shillings from them to pay for ten days of military training. While John was away on service, the parish made the occasional weekly payment of a shilling to his wife, along with donations of hemp, timber for fuel, and repairs to the Birds’ chimney and their daughter’s shoes. After Naseby, John was listed among the wounded in Captain Tomkins’s company of Colonel John Pickering’s regiment of foot, and received eight shillings to pay for his treatment. He received a further two shillings from Stockton churchwardens when he ‘returned home maimed from Nas[e]by fight’. The parish paid for John’s wife to nurse him over a period of 41 weeks, amounting to a total of two pounds and a shilling. The parish were paying for another maimed soldier, John Rivet, and the upkeep of two more lame soldiers at the village inn. By 1647 John had passed away, as thereafter the accounts change from naming Goodwife Bird to Widow Bird. Into 1648, Widow Bird continued to receive wood, hemp, cheese and money from the parish, amounting to five pounds of the parish’s total annual outgoings of twelve pounds fourteen shillings. She was still in receipt of payments in 1658 when the parish relieved her during her own sickness. This moving example shows us how caring for the war’s wounded, widowed and orphaned could make serious inroads into parish finances for years afterward. A search of the material uploaded so far onto Civil War Petitions reveals ten maimed royalist soldiers, to just one parliamentarian maimed soldier and one widow of a parliamentarian. In 1655, William Yorke of Coggeshall petitioned Essex justices that he had served at Naseby, and had ‘received very dangerous wounds’, though not it seems at Naseby as his name is missing from the list of wounded. Ten years on, these now caused him such pain that they disabled William from employment. He was left with six children to support, and had been refused parish relief because Coggeshall was ‘full of necessitous poor people’. His petition was endorsed by four of his neighbours but its outcome remains unknown. The following year, Margaret Walker, also of Coggeshall, petitioned that her husband, Peter, had served at Naseby among Colonel Rainsborough’s regiment, but had been killed subsequently at Sherborne Castle, leaving her a ‘poor distressed widow’. Margaret’s petition set out that she was no longer able to earn her living because of her age and sickness. Her claim was supported by eighteen neighbours, no doubt hoping to lower their own burden by shifting Margaret’s maintenance away from parish relief and onto a county pension. She was awarded a pension of forty shillings per year, a fairly standard sum. The royalist wounded were unable to apply for a pension legally until after the Restoration in 1660, leaving us with the interesting question of how they got by before then. A flood of royalist petitioners came forward during the reign of Charles II, displacing their parliamentarian predecessors in the process. Among the ten royalist petitioners to mention Naseby that have been uploaded so far, three were from Denbighshire, three were from Herefordshire, two troopers were from Yorkshire and one each came from Northamptonshire and Lincolnshire. The most striking of their petitions is that of Rowland Harrison of Whitby, a trooper in Prince Rupert’s regiment from when the King first raised his standard at Nottingham in August 1642. Petitioning aged seventy in 1685, Harrison appears to have retained vivid memories of his Civil-War exploits, including, that at Naseby he was ‘one of the nine that escaped out of the three and thirty that went out of Prince Rupert Regiment’. Nine of his neighbours, including local gentry, endorsed his petition, suggesting that by 1685 he had become something of a local character. Sir Hugh Cholmley vouched that Harrison’s petition was true ‘having heard the same confirmed for more than thirty years that the petitioner hath been known to me.’ Occasionally our petitions provide us with wonderful insights like these into how oral memories circulated in the post-war decades. Among other royalist petitioners, Thomas ap Richard of Wrexham, a Denbighshire trooper complained he had ‘lost his health and wasted his estate in the said service’. He received a pension of twenty shillings in 1664. John Hughes, also of Denbighshire, served in the regiment of Sir Thomas Salusbury, and was taken prisoner at Naseby ‘being then miserably wounded, was shot through the leg’, and was afterwards held prisoner in Leicester ‘in a woeful condition’. William Wilson of Gisburn was entered onto the pensioners’ roll by West Riding justices in 1677, thereby endorsing his claim that he had been a trooper wounded at ‘Kneasbie field’. In Herefordshire in 1668, John Howells petitioned the Mayor of Hereford for a place as an almsman in the city’s hospital, having served at Naseby and suffered ‘divers hurts, wounds, bruises and maims’, as well as losing his sight. John Evans of Hereford petitioned the Mayor in 1684 that he had served in Prince Rupert’s regiment of foot, and been wounded and captured at Naseby. Like many other petitioners, he drew attention to his imprisonment: sixteen weeks as ‘close prisoner’, in ‘thraldom of misery’ in London. He was granted a pitiful four pence per week by the corporation. The following year the Herefordshire county justices only granted bread to the value of sixpence a week to the seventy-year-old William Jones of Bodenham, who petitioned that he had been pressed from the parish of his birth into Sir Jacob Astley’s regiment, only to be wounded at Naseby. Over and above the royalist soldiers wounded at Naseby, we should also remember the women maimed and killed at Farndon Field following the battle. This has been the subject of an important article by our co-investigator, Mark Stoyle, who reveals in one of our previous blogs, Echoes of a Massacre, that Elizabeth Burgess, a servant in the royal household, was among the victims of this atrocity. The suggestion that many of those that were maimed or killed alongside Elizabeth were wives and relatives of Welsh royalist soldiers is supported by the presence of Denbighshire petitions mentioning Naseby after 1660. The numbers of petitioners that reference Naseby are so far insufficient to support any broad conclusions. But over the next twelve months, as increasing numbers of petitions and certificates are uploaded for our forthcoming counties, much more about the identities of Naseby’s wounded will surely be revealed. Further Reading Glenn Foard, Naseby: The Decisive Campaign (Whitstable, 1995), including appendix 3, ‘Parliamentarian Wounded’, pp. 408–413. Barbara Donagan, ‘Casualties of war: treatment of the dead and wounded in the English Civil War’, in Ian Gentles, John Morrill and Blair Worden (eds), Soldiers, Writers and Statesmen of the English Revolution (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), pp. 114–32. Martin Marix Evans, Naseby 1645: The Triumph of the New Model Army (Oxford: Osprey, 2007), p. 51. Ismini Pells, ‘ “Stout Skippon hath a wound”: the medical treatment of Parliament’s infantry commander following the Battle of Naseby’, in David Appleby and Andrew Hopper (eds), Battle-Scarred: Mortality, Medical Care and Military Welfare during the British Civil Wars (Manchester, 2018), pp. 78–94. Mark Stoyle, ‘The Road to Farndon Field: Explaining the Massacre of the Royalist Women at Naseby’, The English Historical Review, 123 (2008), pp. 895–923. Tim Wales, ‘The Parish and the Poor in the English Revolution’, in Stephen Taylor and Grant Tapsell (eds), The Nature of the English Revolution Revisited (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2013), pp. 53–80.
‘Killing a King’: The Sack of Leicester and the Trial of Charles I
On 17 to 19 December 2019, a three-part docudrama called ‘Charles I: Killing a King’, produced by Darlow Smithson Productions, was screened on BBC4. In the first episode, presenter Lisa Hilton met up with the principal investigator of the Civil War Petitions project, Professor Andrew Hopper in the Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland. Whilst much of the focus of the series was on the high politics surrounding the trial and execution of Charles I, Prof. Hopper used the project's petitions from Leicestershire to explain how the suffering experienced by ordinary people during the Civil Wars contributed towards the movement to bring the king to justice. In this blog, Prof. Hopper examines a key feature of these petitions - the memory of the sack of Leicester by the royalists in 1645 - in more detail... In places where surviving petitions from the county Quarter Sessions are scarce, the project has been unearthing petitions from among collections of corporation records, some previously unused by historians. Thirteen such petitions survive among the Borough Hall Papers of Leicester, many of which refer to their claimants’ losses during the sack of Leicester by Charles I’s field army on the night of 31 May 1645. In this bloody assault, the royalists lost 400 men and were no doubt in an ugly mood by the time they penetrated the earthwork defences. The garrison had been insufficient to man the perimeter so it had been supplemented by a scratch force of 900 armed civilians. This made the boundary between soldier and civilian a blurred one in the eyes of their assailants. Few escaped. London newsbooks soon reported that the royalists had killed defenders and civilians who had been trying to surrender. The parliamentarian Bulstrode Whitelocke accused the royalists of having stripped and raped the women of the town. 140 cartloads of plunder were removed from the town and sent northward to royalist-held Newark, whilst the town authorities were faced with arranging burial for 719 bodies. On 3 June 1645, the parliamentarian scoutmaster Leonard Watson reported to Sir Samuel Luke that the sack of Leicester was ‘(if one may compare a small thing with a great) not much unlike the sack at Magdeburg.’ Magdeburg had lost 20,000 inhabitants when it was sacked by the Army of the Catholic League only fourteen years earlier in May 1631, becoming the most notorious atrocity of the Thirty Years’ War. The king’s German nephew, Prince Rupert, had directed the assault on Leicester, lending credence to parliamentarian notions that foreigners were brutalising the conflict in England. Whilst the violence at Leicester fell far short of Magdeburg proportions, many of the survivors were ruined by it. Frances Stevens and Constance Brewin petitioned at Leicester Castle that their husbands had both served in the garrison and that they had been killed alongside their captains during the assault. The two widows declared that as a result they had ‘falne into great want and povertie’. Frances had six children to support and Constance had two. They reminded the Justices of their duty to pay them a weekly allowance ‘as by Ordinance of Parliam[en]t is mentioned to be allowed’. Their neighbour, the tailor William Summer, petitioned the mayor and aldermen concerning his terrible losses. He declared that his townhouse and orchard had been demolished before the assault took place because they had compromised the defences. During the fighting his son was killed, his possessions were carried off by the royalist soldiers, whilst ‘w[i]th the fright whereof yo[u]r petition[er]s wife hath beene distracted ever synce’. Summer struggled to provide for his five remaining children and his traumatised wife, but now stood threatened for practising his trade without being a freeman of the town. He had to quit his work as a tailor, but successfully petitioned the mayor and aldermen to be permitted to work as a botcher mending old garments. Stevens, Brewin, Summer and many others had to live with the consequences of that fateful night for decades afterwards. Stories of royalist atrocities at Leicester lingered in parliamentarian circles and no doubt grew in the telling. When 31 prosecution witnesses were assembled for the trial of Charles I on 24 January 1649, Humphrey Browne, an husbandman from Whissendine in Rutland and an eye-witness of the sack of Leicester, was required to be among them. Leicester provided an excellent opportunity for the trial commissioners to demonstrate the ‘blood guilt’ of a king waging war on his people, because Charles had personally been present. Browne was likely procured to testify by local regicides Thomas, Lord Grey of Groby, or Colonel Thomas Wayte, and declared that he had seen the king ‘then on horseback in bright Armor in the said Towne of Leicester’. Browne gave evidence that part of Leicester’s defences - the Newarke – had surrendered on good conditions rather than having been taken by storm like the rest of the town. He claimed that the royalist soldiers broke these terms of surrender by cutting and maiming the prisoners taken inside. When royalist officers rebuked them, Browne claimed that he heard the king reply: ‘I doe not Care if they Cutt them three tymes more, for they are mine Enimies’. Whether Browne’s testimony was truthful or trumped up, it had the power to persuade because the suffering endured by the soldiers and civilians in the defence of Leicester had become notorious in how parliamentarians remembered the war. Further reading: Glenn Foard, Naseby: The Decisive Campaign (2nd edn., Barnsley: Pen & Sword, 2004); Edward Vallance, ‘Testimony, Tyranny and Treason: the Witnesses at Charles I’s Trial’, forthcoming in a major academic journal. We are most grateful to Professor Vallance for sharing with us his excellent forthcoming article on the witnesses at the king’s trial.
‘Members of one another’s miseries’: care in the community during and after the Civil Wars
The Civil War Petitions team expects to collect, transcribe and digitise around 4,500 petitions and certificates by the end of our project, as well as details of around 13,000 more individuals preserved in Quarter Sessions order books and treasurers’ accounts. This will be a huge achievement, but it represents the tip of an even larger iceberg, for it has been estimated that over 90,000 soldiers were wounded in England and Wales, 30,000 in Scotland, and many more in Ireland. The petitions and certificates of many claimants have been lost over the centuries, but it seems very likely that tens of thousands of veterans and war widows made no claims at all. This raises questions as to why so many needy people chose not to petition the authorities, and how they managed without financial relief. Similarly, how were royalist veterans and war widows able to survive during the Commonwealth and Protectorate, and how did their parliamentarian counterparts fare after the Restoration, when the vast majority had their pensions taken away? In this blog, David Appleby suggests that we can start to answer these questions not only by considering the financial sacrifices made by the maimed and bereaved themselves, but also the contributions made by their relatives, friends and neighbours. Many of the petitions and certificates referred to in this blog are already freely available in our online database, whilst other documents – such as those from Staffordshire and Northamptonshire – are currently in the queue waiting to be uploaded; so please do continue to visit our home page regularly to check out the latest additions! It is a truism that war brings out the best and worst in people. Previous blogs in this series have shown how bitter divisions continued to blight communities for decades after the fighting had ceased, but as other blogs have demonstrated there is also ample evidence to show that communities and families rallied round to help those maimed, bereaved and orphaned by the conflict. As we have seen, many of the petitions featured in the Civil War Petitions website were submitted by communities on behalf of individuals from their neighbourhood. These documents have often been interpreted as a cynical ploy by parishes to offload the financial burden onto the wider county community. This may have happened in some instances, but it is evident that many parishioners were genuinely moved by the plight of neighbours who had suffered serious injury or bereavement. Parnell Heacock told Staffordshire justices in July 1642 that, with her soldier husband missing in Ireland, she had sought the support of her ‘good friends and neighbours’. After Heacock had been sent to a house of correction for vagrancy, no less that forty-seven men and women from her home village of Sherrifhales came forward to attest to her good character, and to assert that she was deserving of financial relief [Staffs Archives, Q/SR/253, fol. 33]. Such solidarity often carried weight with local authorities: in April 1644, the same justices learned of the troubles of Elizabeth Warrilowe, who had accompanied her husband John on campaign in Ireland. John had been badly wounded on two occasions, and hospitalised in Dublin. In the course of being repatriated, the family had been shipwrecked off the coast of Wales. This proved fatal for John Warrilowe, who in his severely weakened physical state was unable to survive the ordeal. His demise left Elizabeth with the difficult task of getting her children safely back to Staffordshire. The fact that she managed to complete this arduous journey, and received a warm welcome in her home village of Caverswall, impressed the county magistrates so much that they commended everyone involved, ‘not doubting that in so charitable a work (as feeling members of one another’s miseries) they will, in all places where the petitioner shall come, afford her their charitable benevolence, which will be acceptable to Almighty God, and [a comfort] to her and her poor children.’ [Staffs Archives, Q/SO/5, fol. 209]. Similar solidarity is evident in Abergele in Denbighshire, where the widow Luce verch John and her children would have starved had it not been for ‘the charitable devotion of their neighbours’. In the eyes of contemporaries people qualified as ‘deserving poor’ either by unavoidable impotency (widows, orphans and the elderly) or through becoming a casualty (maimed soldiers). However, it is very evident that it was also important to have been respected in one’s community before the onset of such misfortune. Communal petitions invariably emphasise that this widow had ‘lived in an honest rank’ or that veteran had previously been ‘a very painful, industrious, honest, poor man’. Self-reliance was a vital element in establishing a reputation as a good neighbour, not least because many early modern communities lacked the resources to support a large number of indigent poor. Those who became burdensome to the community had therefore traditionally run the risk of being exiled to its margins; a risk which increased after 1642, as local economies were bled dry by the opposing sides’ need to maintain their respective war efforts. This is exemplified in the petition of Ann Fookes, who was clearly nervous of becoming a burden to her friends in Halstead, ‘they being poor people’, and explains why others such as Parnell Heacock were so fearful of being thrown onto parish charity, or (even worse) forced to beg. Petitioners very often attempted to convince county justices of their suitability for a pension by outlining the measures they had previously taken to avoid applying for aid: Heacock, for example, had attempted to eke out a meagre living by selling candles [Staffs Archives, Q/SR/253, fol. 33; ERO Q/SBa2/82], whilst Mary Buckley of Wrexham had pawned all her worldly goods in a desperate attempt to provide for her children. Orphans, being too young to enter a trade or raise a loan, were particularly vulnerable. However, children habitually elicited considerable sympathy within communities, as it was widely recognised that they were most definitely innocent victims. Samuel Barker, a widower, had brought up his son on his own, but when he was killed defending Trent Bridge fort against the royalists in April 1645, the infant was left with no relatives in the world. Fortunately, he was taken in by Margaret Cooke, wife of the quartermaster of Nottingham garrison. When Northamptonshire war widow Joane Willmot died in 1659, her orphaned children did at least have relatives to whom they could turn. One of their grandmothers was still alive, and undertook to look after them [Northants Archives QSR 1/11, fol. 95]. Other children were not so lucky. A particularly tangled tale involves the children of Robert Welden, a parliamentarian gunner, killed by the accidental discharge of an artillery piece in 1651. Welden had been a poor day labourer in civilian life, and left his wife and three children deep in debt. Staffordshire’s clerk of the peace recorded in the sessions’ order book that two of these children were the offspring of an earlier marriage. Robert Welden had thought ahead, and had at least made provision for his youngest child, by obtaining his brother-in-law’s agreement to act as a foster parent in the event of his death. In return, the brother-in-law, Thomas Heeley accepted some goods and a small sum of money. Welden’s widow Lettice first applied to the Staffordshire quarter sessions for a pension, possibly in an effort to keep the family together, but it is unknown whether her application was successful. She was certainly still desperate for money, and approached Thomas Heeley to request that he support the youngest child as arranged. Heeley, however, refused to keep his word. The aggrieved widow promptly complained to the Staffordshire justices, who ordered Heeley to pay £8 towards the child’s upkeep [Staffs Archives Q/SR/274, fol. 6; Q/SO/5, fol. 451]. The story becomes even more complicated with the petition of Thomas Wood just over three years later. Wood, a resident of Abbot’s Bromley, was either a good friend of the late Robert Welden (he certainly knew a lot about him), or simply an exceptionally kind neighbour. He observed that two of the children were both motherless and fatherless, and the youngest ‘quite helpless, and utterly destitute of succour or releife’. Unlike Heeley, Wood was not a family relative, but took it upon himself to adopt one of the children, purely (as he put it) out of ‘tender commiseration and pity’. The only reason we know of this extraordinary gesture was because it proved so costly that Wood was forced to petition the Staffordshire quarter sessions in January 1655, seeking money for the child’s continued maintenance [Staffs Archives Q/SR/289, fol. 3]. Whatever the explanation for the contrasting attitudes of Wood and Heeley, the case certainly stands as a good example of the hidden human cost of the civil wars. The exceptional loyalty and devotion of the Cooper (or Cowpe) family in Staffordshire encapsulates most of the issues raised by this blog. In the days of peace, the head of the family enjoyed the respect of his neighbours in Onneley, a small hamlet lying in the parish of Madeley, near to Newcastle-under-Lyme. Cooper had a life interest in what appears to have been a profitable farm or smallholding, described as ‘a pretty tenement’. Cooper’s son, Raphe was farming just over the county border in Cheshire when civil war broke out in England. Like so many others, Raphe was quickly sucked into the conflict, and found himself serving as a foot soldier in the company of Captain Matthew Wright, part of Sir William Brereton’s Cheshire army. It was Raphe’s misfortune to be trapped with a number of other parliamentarian soldiers and villagers in Bartholomley church in December 1643. Although only a minor action, the royalist massacre of the church’s defenders quickly became one of the most notorious incidents of the Civil Wars. Raphe survived, but ‘by the strong hand of the enemy’ lost his right arm, his right eye and – even more critically – was paralysed by a broken back. It is not recorded how his family heard of his plight, nor the means by which he was transported to his father’s ‘pretty tenement’; but in taking him back to Onneley the family had taken a terrible burden on itself. Raphe was effectively a quadriplegic, and would require constant care for the rest of his life. Raphe was noted as being not able to move ‘any further than he is carried by friends’. For the next six and a half years, the maimed soldier’s father and sister became his full-time carers. The modest profits of their ‘pretty tenement’ were insufficient to cover their needs. By the time Raphe’s father died in 1650, the family had run up enormous debts. Following his death, nervous creditors immediately began to demand repayment, whilst the landlord compounded the family’s troubles by claiming his traditional ‘heriot’. This was the fee for transferring the leasehold of the property from father to son. It is possibly that the landlord was hoping for Raphe to default, as this would then have allowed him to evict the Cooper siblings, and rent out the property to an able-bodied farmer. Raphe now had no alternative but to apply for financial assistance. There is no mention of him applying for parish relief, but he certainly petitioned the county justices. In the course of his petition, the maimed soldier gave due credit to the devotion of his sister, stating that she had carried him ‘up and down upon her back, and hath done what she can for him so long as she is able’. Eighteen neighbours signed the petition to certify the truth of Cooper’s story [Staffs Archives Q/SR/268, fol. 7]. Raphe was possibly at a slight disadvantage by virtue of the fact that Onneley lay at the margins of Madeley parish; his application was on even shakier ground by virtue of the fact that he had officially been settled in Cheshire at the time of the Bartholomley incident. The Staffordshire justices noted his last official abode in their order book, and emphasised that ‘by ordinance of Parliament he ought to be relieved in the county of Chester where he was last settled before he took up arms’ [Staffs Archives Q/SO/5, fols. 339-340]. In 1647 these same justices had been involved in a very similar wrangle with Warwickshire authorities over which county should give financial relief to another badly injured soldier, Corporal Peacocke [Staffs Archives Q/SR/260, fols. 1, 2]. However, in Raphe Cooper’s case the injuries were so severe, and the family so obviously deserving of charity, that the justices clearly took pity on him. Cooper and his sister were awarded a county pension, and the justices ordered that this should be augmented by a further payment of 12d. per week from the churchwardens and overseers of the poor of Madeley. The prompt and generous decision of the Staffordshire bench does at least show that the justices were sometimes able and willing to disregard legal technicalities in order to be fair to a family which had done its very best in exceptionally difficult circumstances.